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Ten Iconic Dishes from Spanish-speaking Countries

By- Angela Padrón

Spanish-speaking countries are known for their rich culture, especially their music, traditions, and art. However, no one can deny the many delicious Latin American meals that can be found in these countries as well. From tender meat recipes to meals with fresh vegetables and succulent spices, one is sure to walk away from a Spanish or Latin American restaurant with a full belly and a content appetite.

Here are ten of the most iconic dishes from Spanish-speaking countries. Try not to drool as you read through the list!

#1-ChurrascoChurrasco is beef or grilled meat that is popular in many Latin American countries, especially Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Nicaragua. Churrasco meat is long and thin and extremely tender. Don’t forget to top this tasty meat with chimichurri, an herb-and-garlic sauce that was introduced by Argentinians and has since spread throughout many other countries.

#2- Paella – Some believe that paella is a national dish of Spain, but it actually originated in Valencia. This dish consists mostly of rice with meat (like chicken) or seafood, such as shrimp, calamari, mussels, or fish. White and green beans, along with other vegetables, are also added.

#3- Tamales

Found across Latin American, tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican food made using a starchy, corn-based dough called masa. They are stuffed with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, or chilies before being wrapped in a leaf or corn husk and steamed or boiled.

#4- Ceviche –Ceviche is a dish of fresh raw fish cured in juices from citrus fruits, such as key lime or bitter orange. Chili peppers are added for a spicy kick, as well as onion, salt, and pepper for added flavor. Sometimes the fish is combined with vegetables, such as cooked corn or sweet potato.

#5- Pabellón Criollo– This Venezuelan traditional dish consists of rice with stewed black beans and shredded beef. Fried plantain slices, called tajadas, or a fried egg are often added to the dish. Depending on the region or season, the meat from a capybara called chigüire, caiman, or fish can take the place of the beef.

#6- Ropa Vieja – When directly translated, this dish means “old clothes” in Spanish. It was given this name because the shredded beef reminds people of old clothes that are shredded into rags. The beef is paired with fried plantains, black beans, and rice. Sofrito, which is made with sautéed onions, green peppers, and garlic cooked with tomatoes, is a staple Latin American accompaniment that is often added to this dish.

#7- Gazpacho – When people order a soup, they most likely are expecting a hot bowl of food. But not with gazpacho. This is a chilled, thick tomato soup that is usually eaten as an appetizer. In addition to the fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, vinegar, and herbs are added for flavor. Many Spanish-speaking people eat gazpacho in the summer to cool them off. Soup in the summer? Sounds like a delicious oxymoron!

#8- Bandeja Paisa – This is a platter-style meal popular in several countries, especially Colombia. Different foods, such as red beans with pork, white rice, ground meet, fried egg, plantain, and chorizo are served on a large, oval-shaped platter. Other foods, such as arepas, pudding, avocado, and lemon may also be added. Depending on how much food is added to the platter, this can feed an army of hungry patrons!

#9- Asado

This term refers to a particular way of barbecuing beef. It is most popular in Argentina, but is also eaten in many other Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. The beef is cooked on a grill or open fire. The dish can also include other meats, such as embutidos (cured sausages) or poultry. It is often served with bread, mixed salad, and grilled vegetables.

#10- Encebollado– A popular fish stew in Ecuador, the name of this traditional dish means “cooked with onions.” It includes fresh tomato and spices, like pepper and coriander leaves, and is served with boiled cassavaor yucca, red onion rings, ripe avocado, plantain, popcorn, toasted corn nuts, or bread.

But wait — what about dessert, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever been to a Spanish-speaking country, chances are you’ve eaten flan after your main course. This is a popular dish made with sweetened egg custard and a caramel topping. Not only does it round out a delicious meal, it is the perfect ending to a never-ending list of tasty Spanish dishes!

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